European Preview

Great Britain’s Tai Woffinden bids to kick-start his bid for a fourth World title in this weekend’s fifth and sixth rounds in the Czech Republic.

Image courtesy of Taylor Lanning Photography

Woffinden trails series leader Fredrik Lindgren by 13 points at the halfway stage of the Grand Prix series, and must also pull back six points on Bartosz Zmarzlik and four on Maciej Janowski to reach the top.

The trip to the Marketa Stadium will be for the GP’s only two rounds outside Poland this year, with the series to conclude in Torun in a fortnight.

Woffinden is the most successful of any current Grand Prix rider at Prague, having claimed a hat-trick of wins between 2013 and 2015. He also reached the Final in 2018, but on that occasion was kept off the rostrum by Fredrik Lindgren, Patryk Dudek and Emil Sayfutdinov.

Russian racer Sayfutdinov memorably won his debut GP at the venue in 2009, whilst Jason Doyle is a recent double-winner, having triumphed in 2016 and 2017 – so will be looking to continue his Gorzow form this weekend.

Last year’s shock winner Janusz Kolodziej is no longer a GP rider, whilst Dudek has reached the last two Finals at the Marketa Stadium – which has continuously staged a GP every year since 1997.

Wild Card once again is Vaclav Milik, who has filled that role in this event ever since 2014, although on only one occasion with any significant success – in 2017 when he finished third to Doyle and Greg Hancock. The Czech racer has had a tough Ekstraliga season with bottom club Rybnik.

Meanwhile, the league play-offs get underway on Sunday with Woffinden’s Wroclaw side heading to Gorzow for the first leg of their semi-final. The home side are undoubtedly the form team with seven successive on-track wins taking them right up to second place, and those included a 55-35 win over Wroclaw last month as well as a narrow win in the return fixture.

The sides last met at this stage in a dramatic 2017 semi-final which swung on Heat 15 5-1s in both legs from Woffinden and Janowski which secured a four-point aggregate win for their team. The Wroclaw side for Sunday is the subject of some debate at the moment given the current absence of Maksym Drabik, which may mean one of their youngsters racing in the top five. Dan Bewley was No.8 at Rybnik earlier in the week and should also have an involvement.

Bewley collected 8+2 from five rides for Rospiggarna in Sweden on Tuesday, although they were held to a 45-45 draw at home to Masarna after the visitors took 5-1s in the last two races. Having finished second in the regular league table, Rospiggarna face seventh-placed Vastervik over two legs next week whilst leaders Lejonen, with Robert Lambert in their squad, take on bottom club Piraterna.

The other Polish Ekstraliga semi-final features Zielona Gora against Leszno, a repeat of the last home meeting at the stadium when ZG took a 52-38 victory. A similar result could be their minimum requirement given Leszno’s strength on their own circuit, and they will therefore hope Dudek and Martin Vaculik come through the GP rounds with no further damage after recent knocks.

In Division Two, Anders Rowe races in Germany on Sunday morning as Rawicz travel to Whittstock.